Skiing: green channel

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The Independent Online
Toilet stories are always popular with travellers and the British media, so when the route to Everest became known as the "Kleenex Trail" in the Eighties because of all the toilet paper left behind by trekkers, the story struck a crude chord in the public imagination.

In fact, toilet tissue was but one of the Himalayas' many problems. Along with the 300,000-plus tourists visiting Nepal annually - a quarter of whom go trekking - come sewage-polluted rivers, mini mountains of non- biodegradable rubbish, deforestation, erosion and landslides. A group of 12 trekkers will use as much fuel in one day as would keep a Nepalese family warm and fed for 10 days.

Such bad publicity has done some good however. The Himalayan Tourist Code was drawn up in 1990 - a collaborative effort between tour operators in the UK and Nepal and environmentalists, co-ordinated by the British pressure group Tourism Concern. The code suggests burning or burying waste, carrying out non-biodegradable litter, not making open fires, and staying in lodges where kerosene stoves are used.

"The Nepalese have tried very hard to clean up trails and now you see little evidence of rubbish," says Angela Kalisch, trek leader with the British tour operator, High Places. "Operators do implement the code and there are Nepalese environmental projects like the Annapurna Conservation Area Project which are exemplary."

The British Mountaineering Council is now drafting a broader code and guidelines for trekkers, mountaineers and expedition operators. "One of the main things tourists can do is ask questions of their operators - for instance how waste is dealt with," says the Council. "The longer the explanation you get the better."

Sue Wheat

For the British Mountaineering Council advice sheet, call 0161-445 4747; for a copy of the Himalayan Tourist Code call Tourism Concern on 0171- 753 3330.